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Through the years, he had been known by many names: Diablo Gato, the Furry Lover, Chupacabra, Friskie Two-Times, and, of course, the Ginger Hit Man. But to most, he was simply Puss In Boots . . . outlaw. To them, he was just another fugitive, forever running from the law, with no place to call home and no friends or family to turn to. But as he moved from town to town, slinking through the shadows, Puss never lost faith that one day he would find a way to clear his name. And then one fateful night, in the lonely, dusty town of Santa Maria Margarita de Juan Jose Julio, when Puss was least expecting it, his chance finally came. . . .
It was the Festival del Fuego y el Pollo—or as the gringos called it, the Fire and the Chicken Festival—which meant great bonfires in the town square . . . and a guy in a chicken costume clucking his head off and running around. As the revelers whooped and hollered and shot off fireworks in the streets, the rougher folk in town were celebrating in their own way in the saloon. The poker tables were full and the bar was lined with thirsty hombres, while the piano player banged out cheerful tunes in hopes of keeping tempers cool. Before long, though, grim footsteps clicked along the wood-plank sidewalk, and the music died away as a long shadow stretched across the barroom floor. All eyes turned to the swinging doors . . . then traveled down to the tiny figure silhouetted beneath them.
“HA-HA!” Peals of laughter instantly broke the silence. A cat? In a hat? And boots! Ay caramba! How loco was that?!
“Here, kitty, kitty,” jeered one bar patron as the cat strode coolly by him.
The stranger’s soft orange fur bristled for a moment, but he firmly stayed his course. As he neared the bar, however, a thief named Luis chuckled and nudged his sleeping partner.
“Raoul. Look what the cat dragged in. Oh, wait, that is the cat,” the burly man scoffed.
The other thief lifted his eyes wearily, then bolted straight up at the startling sight. Luis slapped his back, and they both nearly fell off their stools as they shared a gut-splitting belly laugh.
The cat, meanwhile, ignored them. Humanos, he thought. It was the same old story in every bar, it seemed, so he was used to it by now. He knew that their sneers and jeers would turn into bows of respect soon enough.
Lightly, he sprang onto an open barstool right next to Luis, before rising on his toes to see over the bar. “One leche, please,” he told the bartender. Then he pulled a thin gold ring out of his boot and flipped it—clink—onto the bar top.
The bartender picked up the ring and frowned. He bit it to make sure it was real. Yep, there were teeth marks. The man eyed the stranger. Was it stolen? (Si. Indeed.)
“What are you doing here, senor?” the bartender asked his furry customer. A grin began to stretch across his face. “Did you lose your ball of yarn?”
“Har-har!!” The saloon shook as peals of laughter ricocheted throughout the room. Even the lights above the bar swayed back and forth and shook.
“Heh, heh. So funny,” the cat dully muttered. As if he’d never heard that one before.
The bartender dabbed tears of laughter away and took a minute to enjoy his joke. Then he slipped the gold ring in his vest pocket and grinned. “One leche coming up.”
As the bartender poured the cat’s milk, however, Luis got a bitter gleam in his dark eye. He reached out and yanked the stool out from under the cat, who luckily grabbed the edge of the bar just in time. But uh-oh . . . as he dangled two feet off the ground by his claws, the cat’s boots began to slip off. Finally, they fell to the floor with a clunk, and once again the crowd started to roar.
But this time, the sound was interrupted rather quickly by the zeesh! of a dagger flying across the room. It zoomed by several crooked noses, and nearly grazed a dozen scarred, stubbled chins, before it landed with a thwack! in the center of a tiny “Wanted” poster—the last in a long line of them.
The hunted outlaw was named Puss In Boots. WANTED FOR ROBBERY it said. Instantly, the bar went silent as the patrons recognized the pink-nosed face, and with looks full of dread they turned back toward the stranger. . . . He was him!
By this time, Puss was seated at a table. His arms were folded across his chest. With a tip of his feathered hat he reassured them. “I am not looking for trouble,” he said. “I am but a humble gato in search of his next meal.” His golden eyes perused the stone-silent barroom. “Perhaps you gentlemen can help me find a simple score.”
Raoul stood up, his eyes hard as steel and his frown crooked and mean. He ripped the wanted poster off the wall. “The only thing you’ll find tonight is trouble, Puss In Boots,” he declared.
Puss, however, smiled. As if an amateur robber could scare him. There was only one thing he was afraid of . . . then suddenly, he realized it was walking by right then! A policeman was passing just outside the saloon. Puss leaned back into the shadows and hid. He sighed when the footsteps of the law fell silent. That was close, he thought to himself.
Raoul’s face, meanwhile, broke into a sinister grin. “Well, perhaps if one of us were to tell the law that you were in town . . . ,” he began. And as if on cue, Luis and a third thief, Giuseppe, got up and joined him. “We could split the reward,” Raoul finished.
But before the thieves could grab Puss, there was a flash of gleaming steel. In an instant, the cat had disarmed the thieves and trimmed their mustaches and beards.
Smiling, Puss sat down, leaned back, and crossed his tall black boots on the table in front of him. He settled the tip of his sword on Giuseppe’s thick throat. “You made the cat angry. You do not want to make the cat angry,” he hissed. Then—zing!—his claws sprang out like five needle-sharp switchblades. Giuseppe shook so hard at the sight of them, his pants fell from his waist.
Puss sighed. He had made his point he decided as he looked around the saloon again. Now, let’s try this once more, his eyes told the wide-eyed crowd. Was there anyone who could help him find a place to rob that night?
“Uh . . . the Church of Saint Michael has just put up a golden statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe,” suggested the bartender nervously.
But Puss immediately shook his head. “I do not steal from churches,” he said, smoothing the yellow feather on his hat.
Another customer spoke up. “The Boys’ Orphanage received a donation of silver candlesticks that would look very lovely in your home.”
Puss frowned, irritated. “I do not steal from orphans,” he declared.
Raoul, Luis, and Giuseppe exchanged quick, furtive looks.
“What about Jack and Jill—” began Giuseppe.
“Ssh!! Are you crazy?” Luis shook his head.
“The what?” Puss’s eyes narrowed. He wanted to hear more about this “Jack and Jill.”
Raoul glanced at the other thieves. What choice do we have? his eyes seemed to say. He shrugged and took a deep, defeated breath, then he reluctantly explained: “The murderous outlaws Jack and Jill have gotten their hands on magic beans.”
Puss’s eyes grew wide at the sound of the words, and his mouth grew hard and stern. “Do not joke with me about magic beans,” he warned, aiming his sword at Raoul’s throat this time. “I searched half my life for them. They do not exist.”
Luis shook his head. “No, cat. We have seen them,” he said.
Earnestly, Raoul nodded. “These are the beans of legend,” he agreed. Then he raised his arm and revealed a bright blue tattoo on his wrist of just such a magic bean.
Puss’s jaw fell open. Could it be . . . ? he wondered as his heart thumped beneath his ribs.
“Grows a vine to the Land of Giants and the Golden Goose,” Luis went on explaining as Raoul unbuttoned his shirt. On Raoul’s arm Puss could see a vine growing, eventually reaching a castle that covered his chest. From there, the vine ran up and over his shoulder, to a large yellow goose on the thief’s hairy back.
“The Golden Goose,” Puss said softly, staring. Ah, but he knew the story well. . . .
“A heist like this could set you up for life,” Raoul said with a smile that said he’d been thinking about it himself for some time.
“All nine of them,” Luis joked and grinned. But Puss was clearly in no mood for laughs. Luis cleared his throat and lowered his voice. “But only a cat with a death wish would steal the beans from Jack and Jill,” he said.
At this, Puss rose to his feet on his chair and set his boot firmly on the worn tabletop. “The only wish I have is to repay an old debt. And this is my chance,” he declared. Then he hopped down and planted both boots firmly on the stone floor. He rested his paws on the belt cinched around his furry hips. “Now, where do I find this Jack and Jill?”
© 2011 DreamWorks Animation L. L. C.